Former guard Niveen Rasheed ’13, perhaps the best player in the history of Princeton women's basketball, was sad when she left Jadwin Gymnasium for the last time. Unlike most of her teammates and classmates, however, Rasheed knew she wanted to keep playing basketball.
After a long summer of training, Rasheed achieved her goal of going pro. On Aug. 16 the University's athletic department announced that Rasheed had signed a contract to play professionally in Greece.
Within two weeks, Rasheed was on a plane to Kos, a Greek island in the southeastern Aegean Sea near Turkey to play for the Ippokratis Kos team.
“Everyone is amazing here,” Rasheed said. “They’re so nice, they definitely treat you not like a foreigner, but they bring you in like a family, which is amazing.”
Rasheed is off to a good start with the team: In the first official game of the season in Crete, her team won 71-68. Rasheed scored 19 points during the game, several points more than the 16.7 points per game she averaged during her final college season.
“I wanted to find something that will be fit to our team, and it will be the star of our team and come play some two or three different positions in basketball,” Ippokratis Kos assistant coach Yanni Papouli said. “Niveen had these positive things that we were looking about.”
As the assistant coach, Papouli showed videos of three potential players to the head coach, and the only player they both agreed on was Rasheed. Papouli said he was drawn to Rasheed because of the energy she brought to play the game and the energy she transmitted to her teammates. He was also impressed by how well she could run, shoot, score, rebound and pass.
“She’s a very special athlete, a very special person,” Papouli said. “It’s like a blessing that we have Niveen. She can do everything and she’s very professional.”
According to Papouli, Ippokratis Kos was formed in 1978 and the women’s basketball team has played in the national league for the past three years, taking second place in the league last year. This is the first year that the team will play in the first division of the national league.
“It’s like the same experience I had with Princeton — going to a program that was on the uprise and going into it making a statement,” Rasheed said. “So I had the chance to come and automatically make a difference and the coach told me I would be a huge asset and get a lot of playing time and be one of the main players for them, so obviously that’s enticing.”
Princeton women's basketball head coach Courtney Banghart said she is proud of Rasheed’s decision, since she had to “go off the beaten path” that other Princeton students follow in order to find the career she wanted.
“What Princeton does a really good job at is it prepares you for your next step, and, in her case, her next step was to play professional basketball,” Banghart said. “They’re building their team around her skillset, so she’s going to get lots of touches and she needs to — I mean the pro game is all about statistics.”
Rasheed explained that her future is “unpredictable” at the moment as she builds her basketball resume. While she said she is enjoying her time in Greece and it would be “great” to stay, her stated goal is to work her way up within the Euro league.
“Whatever opportunity presents itself, I’m looking forward to that but I know right now this is a great option and I’m excited to kind of expand my Euro basketball skills here,” Rasheed said.
European basketball closely resembles basketball in America, the chief difference being that the shot clock is 24 seconds rather than 30 seconds. This change speeds up the pace of the game.
Rasheed added that European basketball is “a little more showy” and “a little more fun” since players like to “do little flashy things."
“I kind of like the faster pace game, and definitely I think my game is transitioning pretty well in this league,” Rasheed said.
For the time being, when she’s not on the court or in the gym, Rasheed gets to enjoy the Greek lifestyle: She goes to the beach, drinks coffee and enjoys late night gyros.
“It’s weird, it’s exactly like the life of a student athlete except you don’t have school, which is kind of a student athlete’s dream,” Rasheed said. “After practice you’re so tired, but you’re like ‘wait, I don’t have any homework due, I can just really hang out and not feel bad that I’m watching TV.’”
Clarification: The team Niveen Rasheed currently plays for is part of the Euro league. She said she ultimately aims to move up within the league.